And now, a special treat for you here at Popdose! As you know, CHART ATTACK! is a collaborative effort between myself and a few of my favorite writers. If this week’s chart looks somewhat unfamiliar to you, it’s because it’s a contribution from Stephen Hanley, our guest writer from the UK! Stephen has opted to attack a British chart from the early 1970s. Sit back and enjoy, and don’t forget to make fun of all his silly misspellings (“neighbours!” ” favourites!” “cos!”). Take it away, Stephen!
This chart leapt from the shackles of the BBC on 2nd May 1971 â€” that’s 05/02/71 to you colonials, right? Here’s what it looked like â€¦
10. Jig-a-Jig â€” East of Eden Amazon iTunes
9. (Where Do I Begin) Love Story â€” Andy Williams Amazon iTunes
8. Indiana Wants Me â€” R. Dean Taylor Amazon iTunes
7. Hot Love â€” T. Rex Amazon iTunes
6. Remember Me â€” Diana Ross Amazon iTunes
5. Mozart Symphony No. 40 â€” Waldo de los Rios Amazon
4. It Don’t Come Easy â€” Ringo Starr Amazon iTunes
3. Brown Sugar/Bitch/Let It Rock â€” Rolling Stones Amazon iTunes
2. Double Barrel â€” Dave & Ansil Collins Amazon iTunes
1. Knock Three Times â€” Tony Orlando & Dawn Amazon iTunes
Before we start attacking this, a little history. The UK got its first chart back in November 1952, when the New Musical Express published a top 12. Throughout the 1960s, all sorts of publications, pirate radio stations, and the BBC itself hacked together their own “official” UK chart. This madness came to an end in 1969, when a proper polling organization, the British Market Research Bureau (probably a guy in a building with a phone that dialed out), cut a deal with the BBC to provide an official Top 50, based on a poll of as many as 500 record retailers â€” truly a gargantuan effort for its time.
So, barely 18 months after the charts followed the Italian crime model and became “organized,” what was the soundtrack to the life of a ’70s teenager?
10. Jig-a-Jig â€” East of Eden (download)
Peak Placing in Billboard: Never got started â€” don’t think it charted.
You won’t know this one. You won’t know any of the members of the band, nor any of their other records. In fact, listen to this track and you still won’t â€” this, their only hit in the UK, was as radical a departure from their normal prog-rock/jazz-fusion hybrid as “La Bamba” was for Los Lobos. You will know the main contribution of the guy who actually formed the band: Dave Arbus played the violin solo on the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” and it’s Dave’s violin that drives this Irish-inspired frolic which, sadly, sounds like it was tossed off in half-an-hour.
9. (Where Do I Begin) Love Story â€” Andy Williams
Peak Placing in Billboard: It stopped to dine at #9.
This track was a hit solely based on the fact that it was the theme to the top-grossing movie of the previous year, Love Story â€” a pretty ghastly tale of two people who fall in love, but stuff goes wrong and she dies. It was nominated for loads of Oscars, but only won one for Best Score, which brings us back to the record. Andy Williams had been having hits since the ’50s, but was no stranger to the fact that, no matter how much cash you’ve got, if you add a little to it, then you have some more. So he leapt aboard the gravy-train and rode it into the top ten on both sides of the ocean.
Marginally more interesting than the record are some of the facts behind the writers: Francis Lai composed the score and also made a bundle writing melodies for soft-core porn movies, including Emmanuelle, the movie series that got all of us British males through our difficult teenage years. The lyric was written by Carl Sigman, who also gave us “A Marshmallow World,” the song that helped make Phil Spector’s Christmas album the indispensable item that it will be in about seven months. At Christmas.
8. Indiana Wants Me â€” R. Dean Taylor (download)
Peak Placing in Billboard: Ended its life at #5.
I like R. Dean Taylor. I like the fact that he calls himself “R. Dean” so that we don’t confuse him with all the other Dean Taylors that are in our lives. And I like his records a lot. He was unusual in that he was a white guy who recorded for Motown â€” and possibly the first Caucasian to have hits on that label. His success in the UK was largely due to the fact that his records became staples at a specific kind of dance hall in the 1970s â€” you might not be familiar with the term “Northern Soul” (and if you’re not, it is well worth digging into) but the secret of its small though significant success over here was down to its ability to unearth old, unknown soul tracks for the benefit of the paying public. R. Dean’s records were a large part of this faction. “Indiana Wants Me” was more of a hit in its own right, but his 1967 track “Ghost in My House” was a chart hit in the UK in 1974 purely on the strength of its heavy rotation in Northern Soul clubs at the time.
7. Hot Love â€” T. Rex (download)
Peak Placing in Billboard: Can’t believe it’s true â€” only #72!
A truly great record, despite a lyric that sounds like it came from a pre-schooler’s first rhyming dictionary:
Well she’s my woman of gold
And she’s not very old ah-hah
Well she ain’t no witch
And I love the way she twitch ah-hah
Well she’s faster than most
And she lives on the coast ah-hah
â€¦ and a hook that consists of a “la-la-la-la-la-la-la,” repeated 28 times for the duration of the final three minutes. Written down, it don’t look like much, but it really was a great record. Give it a listen â€” if, despite the simplicity and the repetitiveness, you love it, then you’ve captured all that’s great about pop music. If you shrug your shoulders and say “not sure what all the fuss is about,” then I thank you for your interest and advise you to move on down the dial. This was the record that jump-started, for good or ill, the whole glam-rock thing in the UK.
Plus, you can see his point. I mean, a girl who is faster than most and has a residence by the sea â€” who could turn that down?
6. Remember Me â€” Diana Ross
Peak Placing in Billboard: Pretty lean â€” it was only #16.
I can’t get too worked up about this one. Sure, these days, where the charts are awash with mediocre, half-talented, 15-minutes-of-fame wannabes, I’d give up half my kingdom for something as good as this to come along. At the time, though, it was just a pleasant enough pop record out of the Tamla stable. Written by Diana’s old mates, Ashford and Simpson, she sings it prettily enough, as she tells some sleazy, two-timing guy, “Thanks for everything â€” it was great. You’ve found someone new? Fair enough, I’ll get my coat.” Bear in mind that Diana knocked this out in her sexiest, pre-diva period. Whomever that guy was, he really was a lucky S.O.B.
5. Mozart Symphony No. 40 â€” Waldo de los Rios
Peak Placing in Billboard: Living in heaven, cos it stalled at #67.
Now I’ll bet you know this. If you’ve ever been on a conference call and been on hold waiting for the host to arrive, you’ll know this. If you’ve ever stood in
a lift an elevator, you’ll know this. God alone knows why this was ever bought by anyone who has had to work for their money. It was recorded as part of a series that Waldo knocked out in the late ’60s/early ’70s: pop arrangements of classical pieces that were bought by the truckload by our European neighbours (when they weren’t busy surrendering to one another, that is).
Waldo himself was born in Argentina but moved to Spain in 1962, and it was from there that he developed his evil master plan to achieve world domination, a plan only thwarted thanks to the brave soldiers who launched the great punk-rock wars in 1976 and drove his like into the corporate world and other dark places, where it continues to skulk.
4. It Don’t Come Easy â€” Ringo Starr
Peak Placing in Billboard: Did no more than peak at #4.
Best drummer in the world? He wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles. But Ringo didn’t let his status as “number one coat-tail rider” prevent him from stomping his feet all over our charts all on his own. From April 1970, when the Beatles’ split was more or less agreed, it took about 12 months before the solo releases began to have an impact. Lennon had knocked out a couple of tunes before the big adios, so he hit the ’70s running; Macca gave us a pair of pretty good pop singles in ’71 before climbing back into the stratosphere with Wings; George got involved in good work (the Concert for Bangladesh) and released the world’s first triple album by a solo artist. But Ringo â€” God love him â€” Ringo started churning out dodgy records by the score. After this one came the lamentable “Back Off Boogaloo,” “Photograph,” and the thoroughly pointless cover of “You’re Sixteen.” Still, there were some upsides. He married former Bond girl Barbara Bach and earned cash aplenty narrating a children’s TV show based on an old set of stories about talking railway locomotives on a fictional island.
3. Brown Sugar â€” Rolling Stones
Peak Placing in Billboard: Another home run, a big #1.
It might as well have been a double A-side, being coupled with “Bitch” on your side of the Atlantic and a live version of Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” over here â€” which would make it a triple A-side, I guess. So what’s the lyric about? Some say it’s about heroin addiction. Shall we take a closer look at the chorus?
Ah, brown sugar, how come you taste so good?
Ah, brown sugar, just like a black girl should
Does that help any? Let’s see what Mick Jagger, the pensmith of that lyric, has to add:
“I started to call it ‘Black Pussy’ but I decided that was too direct, too nitty-gritty â€¦”
Well, yes, I see your point, Mick. Incidentally, this was the first song to be released on Rolling Stones Records, the Stones’ subsidiary label of Atlantic Records. They used the now-famous tongue for their logo like this:
Anyone see a pattern emerging here? Yep, it’s probably about heroin addiction â€¦
Doubtless you’ve already got a copy of “Brown Sugar” if you want one, but you might not have a copy of the B-side, so here it is. Mick, you the man.
Bitch â€” Rolling Stones (download)
2. Double Barrel â€” Dave & Ansil Collins (download)
Peak Placing in Billboard: A bit of a stew â€” no better than #22.
A huge hit both in the UK and their native Jamaica, ska such as this drifted in and out of our charts more than once â€” largely thanks to the rise of the cult of the skinhead in the late ’60s, which morphed into a suedehead culture in the early ’70s. It hit number one over here, and despite its comparatively less successful performance in the States, it was the first reggae record to break the Billboard top 30.
Try as I might, I can’t figure out what they’re going on about:
I am the magnificent
I’m backed by the shack of a soul boss
Most turnin’ stormin’ sound o’ soul
I am double U oh, oh, oh and I’m still up here again
Et cetera. But it’s a pretty good record.
1. Knock Three Times â€” Tony Orlando & Dawn
Peak Placing in Billboard: Before it was done, it hit #1.
Dawn spent the first half of 1971 really punching above their weight, at least as far as the UK was concerned: Three top tens in that period, and all of them having exactly the same tune. In January we enjoyed “Candida.” In July they were coyly asking “What Are You Doing Sunday.” In between, “Knock Three Times” was at number one for longer than was decent. An unusual record in that it employed sound effects to get its message across, the central thrust of the lyric was a young man’s attempt to woo a resident of the same dwelling as himself. For reasons unclear, his recommendation was that the object of his affection should communicate via the medium of percussion on the structure of the building:
Oh, my darling, knock three times on the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe if the answer is no
Oh, my sweetness (thump, thump, thump!) means you’ll meet me in the hallway
Twice on the pipe (clink, clink) means you ain’t gonna show
Those were simpler times, pre-SMS, pre-e-mail (and apparently pre-telephone), weren’t they?
So there you go. “Wildly eccentric” would be my description of choice for this chart. And what’s “bubbling under”? Well, some pretty good stuff, including “My Brother Jake” by Free â€” I’m sure you know “All Right Now,” but you might not be so familiar with this one â€” so it’s this week’s bonus. Pop music: don’t you love it?
My Brother Jake â€” Free (download)
Thanks so much, Stephen, for giving us a taste of the charts across the pond! Normally, I’d present you with a bit of background about our writer, but he’s graciously taken care of all of that for me. Behold!
Stephen was born in 1958 and has been a music fan for donkeyâ€™s years. He plays a minor, advisory role in the running of his family, being married to Jane and with daughters Hannah and Mollie and a scruffy dog, all of whom reside in the Midlands of England.
The first record he ever bought was â€œCongratulationsâ€ by Cliff Richard, the 1968 UK #1 smash and Eurovision Song Contest entrant. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the nature of that annual event can read more about it here. You should also get down on your knees on a daily basis and give thanks that this ordeal has passed you by. Stephen, however, has been a champion of the contribution that Eurovision has made to musical development ever since.
He is keen on all sorts of music, especially more or less anything. Vintage blues and jazz records and contemporary country are current favourites, and the likes of Steely Dan, Lyle Lovett, the Beach Boys, Ben Folds, and Northern Soul usually figure on his iPod playlists. The virtues of rap, however, remain a mystery.
Earning a crust in the I.T. business, he is a loyal fan of Nottingham Forest F.C., and still plays for a veteransâ€™ football team. He could cheerfully while away five days watching a cricket test match, and sometimes does. Sadly, he continues to be baffled by the workings of the internal combustion engine, but he reads as much as possible, particularly the works of P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, and Christopher Brookmyre. He enjoys harvesting music trivia and making lists of records, but tries to refrain from explaining their significance to long-suffering, and frankly bored, family and friends.
His ambition is to get around to finishing something that he star …